Mechanics of Neural tube Formation
Brain and spinal cord development begin with the folding of the embryonic neural tissue into a tube. Many of the molecular and cellular processes which drive neural tube folding have been elucidated in animal models. However, understanding how such noisy microscopic activities collectively integrate to drive coherent shape changes at the tissue scale remains a challenge. To address this question, we developed a human stem-cell system that self-organizes into a neural tube in a dish. Our system offers quantitative control over experimental parameters including tissue geometry, mechanical environment, and morphogen gradients - all of which are challenging to control in a living embryo. Through a combination of quantitative imaging and genetic perturbations, we plan to advance our understanding of human neural tube formation in health and disease.